Today I had an incident at a shopping mall.
After buying some things at a supermarket I walked to my car. I decided to leave the trolley and carry the bags. As I was nearing my car a man, who turned out to be part of private security guarding the mall called me, claiming I had scratched a car. I did not know what he was talking about since I had walked without bumping anything and also had nothing that could damage any car. I followed him to a car, which had a scratch on its side running over a metre in length, obviously done with a sharp object.
In my shopping bags I had avocados, newspapers and a quarter watermelon, none of which could have done anything but bump at worst. I challenged his claim that I had caused the damage and said he could take my business card and contact me or get the police to charge me. But he said I could not leave because I had to pay the owners, who were not yet back at their car, for the damage I had caused.
He could not say how I had caused the damage he alleged I had done.
In the meantime he called other security people and they arrived gradually and there were about 10-12 in total.
At one point the original guard called a woman whom he claimed to have witnessed me damaging the car, which she confirmed to have been the case.
Eventually the owners arrived and they were parked in a bay for people with disabilities and they could not speak English well and wanted to get their son to talk to me later. So I gave them my business card and ID number. They did not really understand what I was saying though they heard the security accusing me of the damage.
The security were not satisfied and wanted to have my ID and write it themselves. I did not release my ID and held it for the man to write the number down.
In the meantime I was worried that my parking ticket which had been stamped for exit would expire and that I would need one of the security to see me to the gate. Eventually they let me go and said that if I rung at the gate someone would release me.
I cannot say I was held against my will, as in physical arrest, but I was not free to leave when I indicated that I wanted them to contact me should they have intended to take the matter further.
As I arrived home a man, claiming to be the son of the woman ‘whose car I had scratched’ phoned me on my cell. He said that there had been five witnesses of me damaging the car. I told him that I was not a young man who went around scratching people’s cars and he said that was what surprised him. I don’t recall exactly what else was said but he ended with what was meant to be a threat that ‘you will hear from me’.
For various reasons I have contact with people working in the building who contacted the head of security or the manager of the building who phoned me and appeared sympathetic and wanted me to identify wherever the incident occurred so that they could locate who the guards had been.
On thinking about the incident, which may not be over, it is interesting the sense of lawlessness that prevailed. No effort was made to look at my bags to see that they contained nothing that could scratch a car. Nor was there any interest in what I had in my possession that could possibly have scratched a car.
It was the exercise of unlawful power against someone attempting to respond with reason. My guess is that the original guard knew who had damaged the car (though the owner of the building said that cars sometimes came there with damage which they claimed was sustained in the building). The guard may have previously seen the car scratched either by a trolley or some other sharp object. Perhaps he would be held responsible if he did not betray the person whom he knew or would be held to be responsible for this happening in his watch.
Thus he fastened on me and tried to frame me in a very irrational manner. But when you have the power of numbers over someone who is clearly not going to use force, then you don’t need rationality.